Neglecting Our Schools

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The Payson School Board continues to struggle with the consequences of the state legislature’s abandonment of the public school system. State revenues have risen sharply with a billion-dollar reserve, but despite a heartening rise in enrollment, Payson Schools must get by on a 2 percent increase in operating funds and no money for a long list of capital needs — including school buses and vans with 200,000 miles on the odometer.

The school board this week struggled with the resulting difficult choices. Board members appear resigned to spending the bulk of the money that came from the sale of Frontier Elementary School on a host of niggling repairs — including lots of leaky roofs.

The state has forced this consumption of the budgetary seed corn so urgently needed for next year’s planting by refusing to provide money for the growing capital needs of schools statewide. The Arizona Supreme Court declared the system dependent on local property taxes unconstitutional, since rich districts could afford far more expensive buildings and facilities than property-tax-poor districts like Payson. So the Legislature set up a statewide system in the form of the School Facilities Board, but in the past three years has essentially cut off funding.

Now, the Legislature seems content to not only let Arizona sink to dead last in per-student funding — but to let our schools fall apart. In the meantime, they’re falling all over themselves finding new ways to divert public money to private schools.

Meanwhile, the poor school board must choose between bad and worse: Spend the money needed to relieve crowding at Payson Elementary School — or let already overdue repairs become maintenance emergencies.

Fortunately, the small but heartening rise in enrollment after three years of decline has given the district a welcome breather from the relentless cuts of the past three years. And we’re happy about that.

But it’s kind of like a child who’s been both beaten and starved, feeling a surge of relief when the beatings stop.

Comments

H. Wm. Rhea III 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Maybe it's because the private schools get better results. Homeschoolers do well also in most cases and in a situation where the parents pay a double tax. They pay taxes which go to education, then they get to buy all of the necessities to carry on the education in their homes, or in groups as some people do it. Yet somehow, they don't spend anywhere near as much per pupil as the public school system does. Someone could get the bright idea that spending more money does not equal a better education.

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Carl Allison 8 months, 3 weeks ago

All of the governments, city, state and federal, seem to have overlooked the fact that America's greatest product is it's children, not the latest gadget or vehicle. If we don't invest in the education system and strive for higher goals, America won't have much of a future. Too much emphasis is placed on achieving goals set by defined procedures and in the process, the teachers are robbed of the opportunity to actually teach rather than meet some milestone defined by guidelines which I hesitate to say, are guaranteed to set our education goals to the lowest bar. Charter schools aren't constrained by Common Core and the other absurd garbage levied against the school systems these days by legislative efforts so they're bound to perform better scholastically. Since they're also funded differently, they can streamline or eliminate positions or sub-standard educators which is more difficult to do in public schools. We do need to spend more money on education but it needs to be done much, much better than we're doing in the current era. If you're over the age of fifty, go observe some of the grade school classes if you have an opportunity to do so. They are nothing like we experienced in our youth and I would hazard a guess that the teaching method would strike you as not being as effective as what we went through. Personally, I don't think they're getting enough instruction to face the very complex technological world they'll be graduating into in a few years.

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